Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Playground In HM's Mind

During my slow recuperation from the recliner neck injury, I have tried to find alternative ways to ease the pain. Contorting myself like a Chinese acrobat did not help. I stopped short at ordering Dr. Frank's Joint and Muscle Pain Relief Spray. But only because I knew it wouldn't get here in time. Running out of options, I tried to relax. You know the drill. You take a little trip inside your mind to a special place that calms you, and then you start relaxing your toes, feet, ankles, legs, etc. Sometimes, it worked. But it took a long time to get to my neck.

Let me share with you my special place. Don't try to steal it. I may need it again. It's a place from my high school days. Now it would be a Superfund Site. Yeah. As in toxic waste. Now you know why I'm the way I am.

During the summer after my senior year, my friend Susan would volunteer her beige Plymouth Valiant to drive us to what we called Monsanto Lake. As far as I know, it never had anything to do with Monsanto, but that's what everybody called it. The place did not have a real road back then. You had to drive through an old lead mine and out onto the flats. The flats were like a barren desert, except that instead of sand, it was made of dust. Dust that was ground up leftover mineral material that was left after all the extractable lead was extracted.

As you might suspect, dust drifts. Sometimes there were small dunes, sometimes not. I am not good with directions, but Susan was. She could point that Plymouth Valiant seven ways to Sunday, depending on which way the dust had drifted, and some old and new tire tracks, and get us to the lake and back. And the Valiant did not mind if we tracked dust into it on the way home, or if we got the seats wet. Considering that the back seat had a hole the size of a small pumpkin burned into the upholstery, it's no wonder. That hole was there when Susan got the car. We were non-smokers. Apparently, the previous owner or a passenger had tossed out a lit cigarette which then blew into the back seat and smoldered a hole that would necessitate coverage with a throw pillow so that nobody lost a butt cheek.

Our forays were always girls-only. Who wants guys along to lay in the sun and talk about guys? Not us. Sometimes we took our friend Normal, sometimes Mouse, sometimes Little Ernie. Rarely did all five of us make the same trip. Oh, and so you don't feel bad about Susan, she had a nickname, too. Mooner. That's because when cruising through town one Thursday night after a volleyball game, I looked into my rearview mirror and viewed a rear. Susan's rear, pressed up against the glass of my hatchback, mooning the car behind us. And I thought they were just being friendly with all that honking. But I digress...

The lake was surrounded by woods on three sides, with a nice flat dusty beach on the fourth. My special place was at the end of the beach. Away from the platform where people swam out and dived. Away from the families with sniveling brats. Away from the tweeners pantsing each other. We would blow up our $1.00 air mattresses, slather on some baby oil (because back then the object was to fry yourself to a crisp, not protect your tender epidermis from cancer rays), and float right at the water's edge. You put your pillow part of the air mattress on the dusty beach, and let the rest float in the shallow water. You didn't drift out into the jagged rotting tree trunks, but you floated, and had water to dip your arms into to splash yourself and cool off. It was the best of all possible air mattress worlds. You could put your sunglasses over your eyes, chat about who was doing what with whom, or take a short nap if the mood struck you. You knew you wouldn't wake up in the middle of the lake like Morty in Meatballs.

That's my special place. I can feel the sun on my skin, the gentle waves lapping under my robin's egg-blue air mattress, that sensation of floating. It is OH SO RELAXING. Until Mooner asks about my latest boyfriend, and I have to tell her about the worst date in the world. So I don't let myself get that far into my special place. Mooner takes a nap during my relaxation exercise.

I also block out the day that we saw a UFO bobbing in the water about 10 feet out. Surely you are familiar with lake UFOs. Unidentified Floating Objects. This one looked suspiciously like that Baby Ruth in Caddyshack. Mooner and I did not attempt to taste it.

Sometimes, UFOs are better left unexplored.

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